Richie Owens

Passion for filmmaking leads to producer job at NCIS

Written by Maia Anderson
CAS Intern

Richie Owens

Richie Owens, class of 1995 graduate, has always known his passion was filmmaking. A native of Middletown, he began studying mass communications at Miami’s Middletown campus in hopes of one day pursuing a career in film.

“I never even thought of doing anything other than movie or television making.” said Owens.

For the first two years of his undergraduate degree, Owens studied at Miami University Middletown. When he wasn’t on campus, he was working as a projectionist at Middletown’s movie theatre.

The last two years of his collegiate career, Owens commuted from Middletown to the Oxford campus, while still working full-time as a projectionist manager.

Owens says the production classes he took during his time at Miami were his fondest memories.

“The production classes really, really helped,” said Owens. “They were very practical and instrumental in knowing what to do.”

Being surrounded by a new, diverse environment also played an instrumental role in Owens’ development. Owens says he appreciates the liberal arts education he received from Miami and the effort they took to create an inclusive environment.

“I think specifically being from Middletown, which is a blue collar town and pretty much Protestant white, it helps to meet people from different areas,” said Owens. “I think what Miami is doing is they’re really trying to bring in a lot of different demographics which is really important because not everyone is white and Christian. It really does help to know different religions and different faiths.”

From Middletown to Los Angeles

After graduation, Owens headed to L.A. to pursue his film career. He took any job he could find, and started working for a commercial production company doing research. He then became a production assistant doing random jobs for film crews.

Owens worked for Roswell, a show that ran from 1999-2002 and starred actors like Jason Behr and Katherine Heigl. He moved from there to a show called Providence on NBC, where he was working when he got a call to interview for a brand new TV series.

Owens was told they were starting a new crime procedural show called NCIS. When he was hired to the crew, they initially believed they would only be on the air for a year or so. Fifteen years later, Owens is still working for NCIS as a supervising producer. 

His job with on the show has changed numerous times over the years. He’s done everything from color correction, to visual effects, to insert unit. Currently he does the sound mix, working with the show runner and composer and looping the actors’ lines that didn’t come out clearly the first time.

“You know what’s so cool about my job is that I’m never in the same spot twice,” said Owens. “Sometimes I’m in my office, sometimes I’m at an ADR looping stage in Burbank or Hollywood, or I’m on set or I’m on the mix stage.”

Owens says another unique aspect of his job is the diverse backgrounds of his colleagues.

“There’s so many people that work in this industry that don’t have film degrees or mass com degrees,” says Owens. “I’m not saying that a bridge should be built by an English major, but specifically when you get into creatives ideas of an industry you see a lot of different majors.”

Owens has been with the show since the first episode aired in 2003 and has seen it soar all the way to the number one TV drama in the world.

“It has been an incredible ride.” said Owens.

In the future, Owens hopes to break into the movie business. He has also developed an interest in the many new ways movies and television are being created and distributed with streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

“I think it’s really cool that some stories that may have been told in two hours fifteen years ago are now told over a period of thirteen hours,” said Owens. “There’s so many platforms now that we need so much content. We need these other stories told too.”

Keeping In Touch With His Roots

Despite the distance, Owens still gives back to Miami. Each year, Owens assists in the Media, Journalism & Film department’s “Inside Hollywood” program which brings students interested in media to Los Angeles during J-term to take an exclusive look at Hollywood careers.

Owens became involved after Howard Kleiman, Media and Culture professor, area coordinator, and assistant chair of the MJF department, contacted him several years ago. Thanks to Owens, students on the “Inside Hollywood” program were able to visit the NCIS set and speak with him, Mark Harmon, and other members of the cast and crew.

“Richie has been an incredible resource for Inside Hollywood.” said Kleiman.  “Richie embodies the very best qualities of a Miami alum.”

According to Kleiman, Owens has also arranged a session at the audio post-production company that works with his show which allows the students to see how the soundtrack for a network show is put together.

Owens says his NCIS coworkers are equally enthusiastic about the program.

“My bosses and the cast are so excited about people visiting.” said Owens. “They want to talk about their craft.”

During the students’ time in Hollywood they are able to tour the set, speak with cast and crew and even shadow Owens for a few days to see firsthand what it is like to work as a crew member on a major Hollywood TV show.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially if you want to move here.” said Owens. “I wish I had that available to me back in the day. You think you know what this town is like but you have to come out here and experience it and talk to people.”

Advice for Budding Filmmakers

Owens has been in Los Angeles since 1996 and now lives with his wife and their two daughters, Bailey and Gracie.

While the transition from Middletown to Los Angeles was a culture shock at first, Owens has fallen in love with his adopted home. 

“What I love about it is that it’s huge, every day you can dip into something different.” said Owens. “You can experience museums, go to Chinatown, go skiing, go to the desert. It’s one of the reasons they make movies here is because there’s so many different landscapes within a couple hours drive.”

Owens says moving to a big city is virtually a must for aspiring filmmakers.

“There’s gonna be a couple opportunities to work on something in Ohio and maybe Kentucky but with the movie industry you have to move to L.A. or New York or possibly Atlanta where they do a lot of work.”

Once you get there, Owens says the best thing you can do is to give yourself time and not expect success immediately.

“I always say don’t put a time limit on it because you’ll probably be disappointed,” said Owens. “This business, like any business, is a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. You have to be at the right place at the right time and then seize it.”

Owens encourages all striving filmmakers to follow their passions.

“It sounds cliche, but if you can dream it you can do it,” said Owens.  “Don’t take no for an answer; be kind but be persistent. Believe in magic.”